Kowalsky Farm via Google Earth
A Google Earth screenshot of the old Kowalsky Farm, between Morningside Drive South, Clapboard Hill Road, and Turkey Hill Road South.
Anna Rycenga, the Conservation Commission chairwoman, reads the panel’s negative report on the application to subdivide the former Kowalsky Farm into six residential lots. / Photo by Thane Graeul

By Thane Grauel 

WESTPORT — The Conservation Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to issue a negative report on the proposed subdivision of the old Kowalsky farm off Morningside Drive South.

The report, forwarded to the Planning and Zoning Commission, is required before that body decides whether the 12-acre parcel between Morningside, Clapboard Hill Road and Turkey Hill Road South can be divided into six 2-acre lots for homes.

The commission’s vote during a work session involved little discussion, aside from Chairwoman Anna Rycenga reading portions of a 12-page document, prepared by staff with the assistance of a town attorney.

Wednesday’s action was a formality. Last month, members reached a consensus to issue a negative report, but held off on a formal vote.

It was the latest in a series of setbacks for the application by the Kowalsky Family LLC.

Drainage system, wetlands issues cited

The town’s Flood and Erosion Control Board had concerns about an apparently unpermitted underground drainage system, and how basements of the proposed homes might affect an already high water table on the property.

On May 9, Public Works Director Peter Ratkiewich informed the applicant that the property’s drainage system — installed years ago without permits — must be disconnected from the town stormwater drainage system on Turkey Hill South within 30 days.  

The applicant’s representatives have maintained that the drainage system, more than 40 years old, must have been allowed by the town and should remain.

How removing the unpermitted connection might affect the property played into the Conservation Commission’s decision. Rycenga said that a previous sign-off on the plan from the Aspetuck Health District was based on conditions with the drainage system in place. Its removal would likely affect the water table, and require different grading for septic fields. 

 “Without this information, it is unclear what impact to the wetlands will result,” Rycenga said.

She also pointed out that basements with impervious liners in the proposed homes would likely fail over time, according to a town engineer, leading to the installation of groundwater pump systems.

“With all these uncertainties, and unknowns, it is impossible to know the impact to the wetlands and watercourses at this time,” she read from the document. “Therefore, the Conservation Commission recommends that the applicant should reapply once new groundwater elevation data is collected, the plans amended accordingly, if need be, and reviewed by the Aspetuck Health District, Town Engineering Department, and the Flood and Erosion Control Board to determine compliance with the state health code, and Westport’s drainage and grading standards.”

The commission voted on a resolution to issue a negative report to the Planning and Zoning Commission, and recommend that it not approve the subdivision.

The P&Z was scheduled to review the application on an earlier agenda, but it was removed because it hadn’t yet cleared the Conservation Commission. The P&Z has not posted any agenda yet for upcoming meetings.

Thane Grauel is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to Westport Journal. Learn more about us here.